The heat of the summer riots has well and truly subsided and as winter has settled in it has allowed for some time of cool reflection from various quarters. This week alone we've had two important reviews of the policing response both from the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
They have drawn important conclusions that support many of our own findings through internal reviews of those chaotic days. What has been clear is that it was strength of numbers and of purpose that subdued the violence. The surge of some 16,000 officers on the streets of London allowed for officers to go forward, arrest and disperse. The robust tactics immediately implemented in cities like Birmingham and Manchester prevented the disorder from escalating. It was individual officer courage and tactical savvy that brought the anarchy to an end - not baton rounds, water cannon or live ammunition.
It is important that Sir Denis O'Connor (HMIC) has highlighted that these are all instruments that the police service has at its disposal - but what is of equal importance is the fact that the service did not use them and has no appetite to use them in future. It is right that we assess their availability, it is crucial that officers of all ranks know what levels of force can be legally implemented - but theory and practice can be mutually exclusive.
The media frenzy that followed HMIC's assessment implied that the police were seeking the future use of live ammunition in public order scenarios - this was misleading. What was being highlighted was that that capability had always been there, it is just that it has never been a first resort - and never should be.
One of the unique and fundamental principles of the British policing model is that we police by consent. It is through minimum but effective use of force that we keep this country's streets safe and it will stay that way. Next year the service faces some huge challenges; the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee are both huge events that will require the smooth facilitation between both members of the public and police officers. It is therefore vital that we maintain the respect and trust of the British public - and we will do that through effective policing by consent, not brute force.
These reviews recognise that any future evolution of tactics will require significant numbers of officers and resources to successfully execute a response. When the service stands to lose 34,000 officers and staff and 20 per cent of its budget over the next few years serious questions have to be asked, it is our civic duty to pose them.
The HASC, HMIC, economists and many other commentators have aired their concerns that further disorder lies ahead. Is it unreasonable to wonder if the same level of resilience will be there to combat future incidents of that magnitude? We must accept that this will only become harder with fewer resources to call upon.
However, despite that bleak midwinter thought what I do know is that the police service will continue to confront any challenges that face them and protect the public to the best of its ability. 2012 will have its challenges - the service will rise to it.
On behalf of the officers of England and Wales may I wish you a safe and merry Christmas.
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